When this site got up and running finally, I promised a small glimpse at the opening section of my novel, Seven Sons. So, I figured I’d make good on that. Here is a (very) rough version of what I have in mind for the prologue. If you need a primer on Sons, I’d suggest you go read up on that first.

Something I feel that I should point out: once again, this is a rough draft, so nothing here is final. That includes characters, titles, etc. Anything is fair game to change. At the moment, I’m writing for quantity over quality. This hasn’t been edited much, because the idea is that the heavy revising will happen in the next draft. The main goal right now is simply to get to the end. That’s the hard part. Going back and making it sound pretty is the simple stuff. So, I would appreciate it if you could keep it easy on grammatical critiques, as it’s not the thing I’m concerned with at the moment. I’m sure there are a great many. Also, it should be noted that this opening POV is from Jonas, a thieving, conning, all around rotten dude.

So, now that those caveats are out of the way, feel free to read and tell me what you think.


As far as taverns went, the Musty Ox was as apt a description as you could hope for. That’s what it smelled like, anyway. He grimaced as the warm liquor washed across his tongue and down the back of his throat, casting a roaring fire in his belly. Hells, even the glasses smelled like oxen. He didn’t want to think about what the serving wenches hid under their blouses.

Not that he had time for any of that tonight. The traveler brought the glass down with a loud thump on the bar, stumbling into the patron next to him.

“My apologies,” he said to the smaller balding man, the slur of intoxication in his voice.

“Indeed,” the other scoffed, making sure that his disgust was clearly announced to bystanders. He dusted off his expensive looking coat with the easily accessible wide open pockets before grabbing the trophy mistress standing next to him. “Come, Miri. We must retire somewhere more… tasteful.”

The traveler watched the two leave with mock indifference, Baldy’s coinpurse already tucked snugly in his front coat pocket. He smiled as the two exited the Musty Ox, escaping into the cool night air beyond. He couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed. Pursing was an amateur’s game, but after this afternoon’s exchange, he couldn’t help himself. A man that fancy in a place like this was begging for it.

And Jonas Furina needed the money.

Jonas caught sight of himself in the tavern’s foggy cracked mirror as he turned back to the old wooden bar. He whistled with regret when he spotted the short, smoke colored hair atop his head. Gods, he was going to miss having the mane. He had sheared it just two nights prior, disgusted at the weight it took on under a punishing noonday sun. A hasty decision, but many of his were. He always trusted his instincts. Especially so, considering he was the smartest man he knew.

“Next round’s on me,” he said wryly, sliding a few silver arrals across the tabletop to the barkeep. “And the one after that.” The whole room erupted in applause. He wasn’t going to let his lack of money make him stingy. After all, he stood to make that back and so much more when this was all over.

He cast sideways glances around the tavern as a new glass appeared in front of his hands. Jonas couldn’t be too hard on this place. After all, most taverns were generally filthy, but they were still a sight better than other establishments he’d spent his time in. Five years in a Norum prison could make anyone appreciate the niceties of a shit stain like the Musty Ox. Surveying the dusty surroundings, he took note of the many groups of people laughing at rickety tables, slapping backs after a hard day’s work or a harder night at home. In one corner, two Sarlanis were doing a poor job of hiding their black market negotiations. In another, a serving wench gave a tantalizing view while on a customer’s lap, constantly shoving his roaming hands back to his side. A group of Yuri businessmen were erupting in thunderous shouts over an essard game, cards flying back and forth between them as freely as coin. Jonas took all of it in. In his business, being attentive could pay big dividends.

That’s why he couldn’t keep his mind off the man at the other end of the bar. The one that was pretending not to stare at him underneath the edge of his worn wide-brimmed hat. Jonas hid a smirk. The stranger couldn’t hope to stay inconspicuous in that, could he? It was so tacky.

Well, as long as the man was just sitting and admiring, Jonas would continue to drink. He was more than safe at the moment; Gent was watching. Jonas spied his partner returning from the tavern’s side room, where he had no doubt engaged in his favorite habit. Chewing bacchad was a younger man’s pastime; a young man that fancied a toothless grin when he reached Jonas’s age.

At the other end of the bar, Tacky Hat stiffened as Gent took a seat against the wall. So he’d noticed. Good eyes on Tacky Hat. It made Jonas uneasy. Perhaps for all his half assed ideas, Gent was right. Maybe they had been in Lohm for too long. Lingering meant unwanted attention. Unwanted attention meant hitches in the plan. Jonas didn’t like hitches.

This afternoon had almost proved itself the biggest one yet. He hadn’t expected Sal to demand more than their agreed price. Sal was a thief and black market courier, about as worry free as any man he’d known in the business. But Sal was nervous. Sal didn’t get nervous. Apparently, rumors of bold, wandering Maneran patrols were sending everybody into a fury, the underworld most of all. It was known to happen from time to time, but something was different. He didn’t need the kingdoms nipping at each other. Not now.

“Something’g going on, Jonas,” Sal had whispered to him in his inn’s bedroom. “People are jumpy. Talks of war.”

“War’s good for us, Sal,” Jonas said back nonchalantly. “Always has been.”

Normally, he would have told Sal to piss off and then found somebody else to ferry the package. But this was bigger than him or Sal and he needed somebody he could trust. So Sal it was, for better or worse. The courier wouldn’t ask any questions or look at the goods he was carrying. Not that he would understand the ugly glowing wyrm eggs inside. As long as he didn’t break them. Jonas didn’t like for stages of a deal to leave his supervision, but big jobs meant big risks. He hoped this one paid off. He’d be a very rich man if it did. The other option wasn’t too appealing. Then again, death was never the ideal choice.

Jonas took another drink, reveling in the relaxation that alcohol brought. The Musty Ox continued on in its lively state, but he was ignoring it out more and more. He was good about ignoring distractions. A thief had to be. He had much more immediately frightening concerns than Sal’s delivery methods. There was no reason to doubt him at this point.

No, the more pressing issue was the meeting. Gent had warned him about fielding all of his offers at once, worried that both of them could end up with a situation on their hands that was beyond their control. The man had a point. But it was better than ending up with a knife in his back. In another life, he remembered juggling as a young man to distract travelers while a fellow pickpocket lifted purses. In a sense, he had never stopped the juggling act. He wondered if he could keep all of these pieces in the air. Just a couple more days. Jonas cracked his knuckles on the bar, one finger at a time. No more hitches.

A tap on his shoulder. “Jonas Furina.” It wasn’t a question.

He rounded to face the source of the voice, and was surprised to find Tacky Hat waiting for him, face set in stone and looking rough as pavement. When had he gotten up from the bar? Across the room, Gent shifted in his seat and drummed large fingers on his table. Trouble?

Jonas rapped his own fingers on the bar. Nothing yet.

“Tacky Hat,” Jonas said with feigned enthusiasm, raising his drink to the sudden visitor. He put on his best drunk face and made sure to slosh some beer from the edge of the mug. Tacky Hat didn’t flinch when it landed with a dull splash on his worn boots. “I like nicknames, hope I didn’t offend.”

“So you are Jonas Furina?” he asked. His eyes burned at Jonas in small slits covered just barely by the edge of his dirty and sweat-stained cap. Lots of miles on his brow. And there was something else there: loathing. Jonas wasn’t a stranger to that. But this man was a stranger to him. Curious, that.

He smiled, raised his eyebrows. “I’m a wanderer. Just passing through. Maybe you think you know me but you don’t.”

“That is a shame,” Tacky Hat replied. “You seem like a man here on a… business venture.”

Was this one of the buyers? He was early. Too early for comfort. Jonas took an overly large sip from his cup, rubbed his thumb along the bar’s old finish. Be ready. Gent nodded. Jonas wiped his mouth with a frayed sleeve. “Business venture, eh? Got some salve I’m trying to pawn off. It’s for the ass.”

No reaction from Tacky Hat. My, Jonas thought. He’s a serious one.

“I apologize, sir,” the thief said, a hint of scandal lacing his voice. “I didn’t mean to assume. I’ve learned to spot ’em, men with your affliction. Still interested?”

The visitor shrugged his shoulders. It was methodical, deliberate. This man was a bowstring, taut and on the edge. He had control of himself, though, that much Jonas could tell. His face was unreadable.

“I’ve learned to spot people, too,” the man intimated. He tipped his head forward while he spoke, the dim light of the Musty Ox casting deep shadows over his visage. “Different affliction, though. Much more rotten.” He casually brushed at his cloak. Jonas spotted the hawkman insignia he was unfortunately all too familiar with. He hated bounty hunters more than he hated hitches.

Sighing, he placed his mug down on the bar behind him. Time to sober up. “Cut the bullshit. What do you want?”

“You escaped from a Norum prison last year.”

“Sentence was up,” Jonas stated.

“Not according to them.”

“Me and Norum didn’t always see eye to eye.”

The bounty hunter nodded as if he expected that reaction. He took a visibly deep breath. “You also killed a hawkman.”

Jonas hissed between his teeth, shaking his head. “Ah, him. I tried to avoid that one, I really did. Know him?”

“I didn’t, actually. But murder’s murder.”

“I hope your training was better than his.”

“It was.” Tacky Hat smiled for the first time at his own private joke. It actually caught Jonas off guard. Suddenly, he grew serious. “We’re going to walk out of here,” he said carefully. “Me and you, together. You can do it as a man, same as we stand here. If you want.”


“There’s not an ‘or’,” the hawkman answered quickly, patience in his voice. He had done this many times. “Not one you’d like, anyway.”

Jonas leaned back even farther against the bar, propping himself up with his elbows. “Well doesn’t that just sound… dire? Are you a dire fellow, hawkman?”

“Just trying to do what’s right by the law.”

“That’s no way to live,” Jonas quipped. “Law man’s worse than a dire fellow.”

“So your answer is no,” the thief catcher declared. Once again, not a question.

Laughing, Jonas clapped his hands together. “That almost sounded hopeful, Tacky Hat.”

“It was.”

“Well,” the outlaw started, narrowing his gaze on the man before him. He cracked his knuckles against the bar as he moved forward to meet him. Now. Gent was up in a flash, navigating through the bar’s denizens with murderous purpose and speed that belied his bulky frame. “I’d hate to deny a law man his due. Your answer is hells no, in that case.”

His partner closed in on their enemy, Jonas took a step forward as well. He almost felt sorry for the man; he was just doing his job, after all. Nothing wrong with that. But he had obligations to meet, with folks higher ranking than a hawkman, of all people. Certified or not. And he so hated to disappoint potential clients.

Suddenly, he froze in place. The hawkman was smiling. Something in Jonas’s stomach sank to the bottom of his feet.

It all happened faster than he could have predicted. Without warning, the stranger produced an antique pistol from underneath his cloak, its polished silver inlays flashing even in the dim lighting. Before Jonas could react to the surprising appearance of the weapon, the hawkman pivoted to Gent. The poor assistant never had a chance. A violent blast erupted in front of him, the noise deafening within the Musty Ox’s old and crippled confines. Customers shrieked and turned over tables when the gunshot rippled through the air. A brief moment of overpowering silence followed, after which Gent collapsed in a heap on the floor, still clutching blades in both hands that rattled as his grip released.

Not a second later, the barrel of the pistol swiveled back to Jonas, who was dumbstruck and shocked in disbelief. It wasn’t the presence of the gun that left him in such a state. Rather, its craftsmanship, familiar and distant all at the same time. Him and this pistol were old friends.

The hawkman spoke, his voice loud and commanding. “Anyone not on either end of this weapon needs to leave. With haste.”

Jonas never figured the patrons of the Musty Ox to be a particularly ingratiating bunch, but they proved him wrong in that instant. Gathering belongings, last sips of whiskey and one another, they vacated the establishment like Mooramos himself had descended into their midst. Hells, that’s about how the thief himself felt, standing with this particular pistol leveled at his chest. The past had a way of ruining a perfectly good night. And if things didn’t turn a different direction, a perfectly good job as well.

An hour seemed to fill the moment that the two stood there, eyes battling in an empty bar. The burning smell of powder still filled the air, now hazy from the execution which had just taken place.

Jonas licked his lips before speaking. Who was this law man? “Mighty fine trinket in your possession.”

Tacky Hat’s face was a knife point that had found its target. “Thanks. It was a gift from my father.”

“Bet he wishes he still had it.”

“You tell me.”

A sudden and awful realization crept into Jonas’s mind with all the subtlety of a smithy’s hammer.


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